The 2016 FIM Motocross World Championship dashes onto round eight and the third meeting in as many weeks with the Grand Prix of Trentino in Italy this weekend around the tight, winding and hard-packed layout of Pietramurata in Arco di Trento.
The Dolomite mountain setting on the fringes of Lake Garda is one of the most scenic locations on the MXGP trail and the special characteristics – narrow, stony, bumpy – make this trip to Northern Italy one of the hardest to judge with an acute and important focus on race starts coming to the fore.
For Team Suzuki World MXGP it represents another chance for both Ben Townley and Kevin Strijbos to move up from their current positions around the fringes of the top five of the premier class on their works RM-Z450s and aim for the crew’s first podium trophy of the campaign and for what will be the eighth stop of 18.
MXGP has been coming to Pietramurata every season since 2013 with the Motoclub Arco endeavouring to expand and modify the small locale to accommodate more paddock and parking space. The Grand Prix is typically ‘Italian’; making up for modest and compact limitations with a ritually vibrant and passionate atmosphere from the fans that pack closely into the pockets of spectator zones.
Strijbos missed the 2015 edition of the Grand Prix through injury but in 2014 raced to third place overall. Townley comes to the cambers of Pietramurata for the first time in his career. The riders’ experiences at the circuit could be determined by the weather this weekend. The outlook is less-than-inspiring with rain forecast for both days. A wet Saturday-Sunday combined with EMX250 and EMX125 support classes could have repercussions on the terrain and cause the Italian soil to get rougher, slower and more technical which could play nicely into the hands of the Suzuki-shod veterans.
“I think if it can rain a lot beforehand then it will be a real mudder!” says Strijbos. “I had a good training session today on my bike and I’m looking forward to Arco. It is a difficult and slippery track normally but maybe with rain it can be better. I just want to try and put two decent rides together; I need it and so does the team.”
Jeremy Seewer’s story in the MX2 class has been exceptional in 2016 for what is only the Swiss’ third full season in the category. The 21 year old was just a lap and a half from claiming his first Grand Prix chequered flag last Sunday in Germany and now boasts six consecutive podium finishes and sits a clear second in the championship standings with a 52-point gap over Pauls Jonass. Seewer – and the rest of the MX2 field – face a considerable task to reel-in undefeated rival Jeffrey Herlings (holding 350 points compared to Seewer’s 270) but #‘91’ came closest at Teutschenthal and knows that Herlings made mistakes and missed out on victory in 2015 at Pietramurata to Tim Gajser.
“I like Arco! I had one of my very first GPs there and finished well, even in the top-10, I think,” says Seewer in reference to his 2013 appearance where he went 12-10 in the motos. “I think some water will be good for the track but we will see. I’m looking forward to it whatever; if it’s wet or dry.”
Now fifth in the EMX250 standings after three of 10 rounds and less than 10 points from the top three, Bas Vaessen will also be competing at Arco di Trento and with the aim of getting on the box for the second time this season.
Action begins with Free Practice for both classes on Saturday morning followed by Timed Practice to determine positions in the start gate for the Qualification Heats. The classifications of the 20-minute and two-lap sprints will order the entry to the line for the two GP motos on Sunday.
MXGP World Championship Standings (after 7 of 18 rounds): 1. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 299 points; 2. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 291 p.; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 263 p.; 4. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HUS), 238 p.; 5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 232 p.; 6. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 215 p.; 7. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki World MXGP), 169 p.; 8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 168 p.; 9. Valentin Guillod (SUI, YAM), 139 p.; 10. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 136 p.; 11. Tommy Searle (GBR, KAW), 130 p.; 12. Christophe Charlier (FRA, HUS), 124 p.; 13. Ben Townley (NZL, Suzuki World MXGP), 99 p.
MX2 World Championship Standings (after 7 of 18 rounds): 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 350 points; 2. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki World MX2), 270 p.; 3. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 218 p.; 4. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, YAM), 186 p.; 5. Benoit Paturel (FRA, YAM), 186 p.; 6. Petar Petrov (BUL, KAW), 183 p.; 7. Max Anstie (GBR, HUS), 162 p.; 8. Vsevolod Brylyakov (RUS, KAW), 157 p.; 9. Samuele Bernardini (ITA, TM), 149 p.; 10. Brent Van doninck (BEL, YAM), 129 p.
EMX250 European Championship Standings (after 3 of 10 rounds): 1. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, HUS), 132 points; 2. Hunter Lawrence (AUS, KAW), 120 p.; 3. Kevin Wouts (BEL, KTM), 98 p.; 4. Darian Sanayei (USA, KAW), 95 p.; 5. Bas Vaessen (NED, Suzuki World MX2), 89 p.; 6. Nick Kouwenberg (NED, HON), 72 p.; 7. Miro Sihvonen (FIN, KTM), 63 p.; 8. Even Heibye (NOR, KTM), 60 p.; 9. Anton Gole (SWE, HUS), 59 p.; 10. Nicolas Dercourt (FRA, KAW), 52 p.